Google Drive: A guide to the free storage service

The debut of the search giant's long-awaited challenger to Dropbox, the leading 'cloud' provider, may be just around the corner. But will people actually use it?

By TheWeek.com Mar 29, 2012 12:22PM

Image: Google © Bloomberg, Getty ImagesGoogle Drive, the search company's online storage service, is reportedly set to debut in April. Google's (GOOG) reach already extends to nearly every corner of the online experience -- from Gmail to Chrome to YouTube. Can the search giant also defeat Dropbox, which has long dominated cloud storage with its 50 million users?


Here's what we know so far about Google Drive:


What will Google Drive offer?
While Dropbox gives users up to 2 GB of space on its cloud for free before it starts charging, Google Drive will reportedly offer only 1 GB of free storage, but may charge considerably less for extra storage space (see below). The big question is: Will Drive actually launch? Rumors of such a service first surfaced in 2006, yet nothing materialized. Google Drive "is like the wolf in the fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf," says Om Malik at Giga Om. Still, according to recent posts by multiple sources, an April launch might actually happen.


But doesn't Google Docs already offer similar benefits?
"Technically, Google Docs is Google's de facto cloud-storage service, for a wide variety of file types that could be uploaded," says Vincent Chow at Dice, but it pales in comparison to Dropbox. Part of Dropbox's success is that users install a client to function as a normal desktop folder, making cloud files easy to manage with a simple drag and drop (no need to navigate messy upload menus). Though info on Google Drive is still scarce, purported screenshots suggest that it will work as easily as Dropbox, while maintaining the look and feel of Google Docs.


Why does the search giant even care about Dropbox?
Dropbox is an "extremely hot startup with an estimated valuation in the billions," says Chow. As it stands, users can pay $99 a year for 50 GB, or $199 for 100 GB. But, because Dropbox charges more to cover storage costs (it pays Amazon (AMZN) to use its servers), Google should be able to undercut its price. Right now, Google charges a "dirt cheap price" of 25 cents per extra GB for all its services, including Gmail, Google Docs, and Picasa. Plus, Google Drive will feature app support from the "get go," says Lucian Parfeni at Softpedia, which will allow users to store content from other apps on the cloud.  


Will users make the switch?
In order for Google "to make [a switch] worthwhile," it's going to have to offer users something they're not already getting with Dropbox, says Adam Pash at Lifehacker. "My sources are impressed so far with what they have seen [of Google Drive]," says Malik. But since Google is so late to the game, it has to be innovative. Otherwise, as Pash says, "they're just going to be in another Google+ situation." 


Sources: DiceGeek WireGiga OmLifehackerSoftpediaThe Verge 


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